Review: Sailing to Sarantium & Lord of Emperors

The Sarantine Mosaic, a Duology

By Guy Gavriel Kay

I’ve read nearly every book that Kay has written and never been dissapointed.  This series was no exception.  The first book, Sailing to Sarantium, is a bit slow, but once you’ve finished the series, you see the necessity of it.  And once you’ve finished Lord of Emperors, I think you’ll agree with me that the series is one of the great masterpieces of literature in our time.

First, Sailing to Sarantium.  This first book serves mostly as set up for the second book.  Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t stand on it’s own merits.  It’s chock full of the usual impeccable literary skill of Guy Gavriel Kay.   The story is intricately weaved together and leads us from a small chapel into the metropolis of Sarantium.  All the while, we learn about Crispin the mosaicist and follow him on a journey that is filled with beauty, intrigue, and mythos.  This is a wonderful book, with the only detraction being the fact that it is almost entirely a character build for the second half of the duology.

The second half, Lord of Emperors, makes it all worth while.  What was already a great work in character developement becomes a masterpiece.  We continue the journey of Crispin as he learns the subtleties of the courts of Sarantium and the intricacies of the personal relationships outside of those courts.  Tragically, Crispin gets drawn into a story that far exceeds his desires to create his masterpiece and becomes a key player in a story of much grander scale.  Tragic and devine at the same time, Lord of Emperors comes to a conclusion that will leave you wondering how you could have thought it would end otherwise.

If you have ever read any of Kay’s work, and not this series, do yourself the favor and pick it up today.  You can pick it up used off of Amazon for an extremely fair price.  And if you haven’t read any of Kay’s work, what are you waiting for?

Review: Dies The Fire

Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling

Dies the Fire

By S.M. Sterling

I’ve always been a sucker for the history changers.  The people who forged a path that changed the world.  Martin Luther King comes to mind.  All the way down to that darn butterfly in the Amazon that everyone is so fond of talking about.  When you’ve changed the world, you’ve laid a path, woven a tale, and made things different.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that I like alternative history fiction.  What little of it I’ve read at least.  I cut my teeth on S.M. Sterling’s work with a novel of his called Conquistador.  It was a book that I had a hard time getting into, but it quickly became a page turner and was a great book.  Given that I liked Conquistador so much, I though that I’d give another book of Mr. Sterling’s a try.  This time around, a truly alternative history fiction.

Dies the Fire is a novel of The Change.  A singular event that changes the way the world works.  Combustible materials such as gas and gunpowder no longer combust with the same intensity that they did before.  What this accomplishes is to render useless all cars, guns and all electrical devices.  Consider that for a moment.  All cars, guns and electrical devices are rendered useless.  What would that mean for your everyday life?  Likely, the same things it meant for the characters in Dies the Fire.

The world is turned upside down, and is thrown into chaos.  As they people begin realizing what is going on and accepting that it might not change back, a few make the best of it and begin to gather the pieces.  Dies the Fire follows three groups of these people either directly or indirectly.  As we follow them through the first few days post-change, we begin to see a new kind of world emerge.  A post-modern world that has been thrust back hundreds of years into a new dark age.

Dies the Fire is a thrilling tale from start to finish.  The concept is pretty good, and the writing is also quite good.  But what really makes the novel, for me at least, is the way that S.M. Sterling has captured the interactions between the survivors of The Change.  Not only does he catch their struggle to deal with the new world, both emotionally and physically, he also catches the changes that occur as they begin to adapt to their new life in their new world.

If you’ve never read a novel by S.M. Sterling, this could be a good one to start on.  Beware, however, that it’s the first of a trilogy that has spawned a second trilogy and an upcoming third trilogy.  If you fall for the tale and the characters the way I did, you could be in for a 9 book journey.  They do read fast though, so it won’t be all bad.  Especially if you’re an alternative fiction fan, you should pick up Dies the Fire.